COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) - A wrongful death lawsuit filed against Mount Carmel hospital, a doctor, and other medical staff claims they intentionally gave a lethal dose of the drug Fentanyl to a 79-year-old woman in order to hasten her death.
The lawsuit was filed Monday on behalf of the estate of Janet Kavanaugh, who died on December 11, 2017. Doctor William Husel, who was treating Kavanaugh, reportedly ordered she be given 1,000 micrograms of the drug through her IV. Lawyers say a medical expert called the amount of Fentanyl prescribed "grossly inappropriate and excessive."
Fentanyl is an opioid similar to morphine, but 50 to 100 times more potent, according to the National Institutes for Health.
Lawyers say despite the excessive order of Fentanyl, either Mount Carmel's electronic medical records system failed to flag it and alert Kavanaugh's medical providers that it might be an error, or it was flagged and was ignored. The pharmacist at the time, Talon Schroyer, and the nurse, Tyler Rudman, are also named in the lawsuit, with claims that they knew it was excessive and inappropriate.
Kavanaugh received the dosage of fentanyl at 5:45 a.m. on December 11, 2017, and was pronounced dead at 6:03 a.m.
According to the lawsuit, Mount Carmel administrators contacted Ms. Kavanugh's daughter on December 28, 2018, and told her that her mother was given an excessive dosage of Fentanyl, which hastened and/or caused her premature death, and that the staff members involved were suspended from patient care.
Lawyers say Kavanaugh's daughter got another call from hospital administrators on January 14, 2019 indicating that at least 26 patients were victims of excessive and inappropriate dosages.
The lawsuit filed by Leeseberg & Valentine on behalf of Kavanaugh's estate names the three medica professionals and the hospital, claiming Mount Carmel was negligent for letting Dr. Husel practice in their facilities, as well as negligently supervising employees.
Mount Carmel Health System sent out a statement from their president and CEO Ed Lamb, saying in part that they reported the situation to authorities after an internal investigation. They also said they removed the doctor from all patient care and terminated his employment. "We're working hard to learn all we can about these cases, and we removed 20 hospital staff from providing further patient care while we gather more facts."
Full statement from Mount Carmel Health Systems:
"Mount Carmel recently reported to authorities, the results of an internal investigation regarding the care provided by a doctor who, until recently, worked with patients requiring intensive care.
During the five years he worked here, this doctor ordered significantly excessive and potentially fatal doses of pain medication for at least 27 patients who were near death.
These patients' families had requested that all life-saving measures be stopped, yet the amount of medicine the doctor ordered was more than what was needed to provide comfort.
On behalf of Mount Carmel and Trinity Health, our parent organization, we apologize for this tragedy, and we're truly sorry for the additional grief this may cause these families. Our team has contacted these families and will continue to answer their questions and concerns as best as we can.
Following our discovery, we addressed related patient safety issues. We removed this doctor from all patient care and terminated his employment. We reported this situation to the appropriate authorities, including law enforcement. We changed processes to help ensure this event does not happen again.
We're working hard to learn all we can about these cases, and we removed 20 hospital staff from providing further patient care while we gather more facts. This includes a number of nurses who administered the medication and a number of staff pharmacists who were also involved in the related patient care.
Mount Carmel provides compassionate care that takes into account the decisions of patients and their families. We believe in helping patients who are near death die peacefully and naturally.
The actions instigated by this doctor were unacceptable and inconsistent with the values and practices of Mount Carmel, regardless of the reasons the actions were taken. We take responsibility for the fact that the processes in place were not sufficient to prevent these actions from happening. We're doing everything to understand how this happened and what we need to do to ensure it never happens again. We're joined in this effort by leaders of Trinity Health and we've asked outside experts to assist us.
Our integrated team is identifying immediate root causes to ensure that our best-practice care guidelines are followed. So far, these include a new escalation policy for increases in pain medication dosing and a new approval process for pain medication at high doses during similar situations.
For many years, Mount Carmel has worked to reduce medical errors and create a culture in which staff report concerns. In particular, over the past 18 months, we have engaged in ZeroHarm and High-Reliability training to stop preventable medical errors-work that puts systems into place to make the care we provide highly reliable and consistent. This focus on high-reliability helped us to discover these events because one of our employees spoke up and reported a safety concern.
Despite our meaningful progress in building a high-reliability organization, we recognize we have more work to do. We're committed to making sure our employees work in an environment where they have the right to speak-up-without fear of retribution.
As with everything we do, we will continue to rely on our values to guide us in responding to these events. We will continue to do the right thing, to act with integrity and be transparent.
While these actions have brought shock and hurt to our organization, this will not define us.
Our more than 11,000 employees at Mount Carmel are outstanding professionals committed to safe, high-quality, people-centered care. Together, we will find strength in the values and beliefs we're known for.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the involved patients and their families, and we ask for their forgiveness.
We will learn from this, and we will do better-because our patients and their families deserve our very best."